Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Exceed 2018 she says, he says review
Sometimes being early to the party isn’t the best idea.
Take the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) for example. It was one of the first plug-in hybrid vehicles on the market and the most affordable. It proved electrification can be accessible for the wider motoring population, it it has largely been overshadowed by the more glamorous arrivals from premium brands such as the Audi A3 e-tron, BMW 530e and Porsche Cayenne e-hybrid.
While those rivals are out of reach for many, the Outlander PHEV range begins at $45,990 (plus on-road costs) for the entry-grade ES but we’re testing the top-of-the-line Exceed. It’s priced from $53,990 which makes it competitive in the upper end of the mid-size SUV contest, therefore making plug-in hybrid a genuine alternative to petrol and diesel options.
He: Mitsubishi has given the Outlander range a freshen up for 2019 but I’ll be honest, it’s hard to notice any major differences. While styling is in the eye of the beholder I’m not a fan of the busy, chromed look of the Outlander PHEV Exceed and it wouldn’t surprise me if that was putting people off. Because underneath the surface there’s a lot to like about it.
She: I know what you mean about outdated styling. It doesn’t look much different from older models - but in saying that, I don’t think it’s a bad looking car - just in good need of a facelift.
The size is nice too, it’s a spacious cabin but it didn’t feel like a big or cumbersome SUV to me.
He: Yeah, I think that’s one of the biggest selling points of the Outlander, the roominess of the cabin. Unfortunately the PHEV can’t be had with the seven-seat layout available in the petrol-powered models, but there’s still plenty of room for a family of five. And in the Exceed trim level it’s very well equipped.
She: I thought the PHEV’s interior felt welcoming. Comfortable leather and electric adjustable seats were nice, although electric adjustments are only for the driver’s seat. Switchgear and buttons seem daunting at first, but you get used to it fairly quickly. The power tailgate came in handy, too, a simple pleasure to make life easier.
As for how it feels on the road, I couldn’t get over how smooth and fluid it felt the minute I started driving.
He: Yes, this is the big selling point of the PHEV, it’s ability to switch between zero-emissions electric propulsion for short trips and petrol power to recharge the batteries if you need a longer trip. While some argue the plug-in hybrid is a halfway house, with the compromise of an electric car and internal combustion car adding extra weight and complexity. But, personally, for my lifestyle, I think it offers excellent flexibility. On a daily commute I could survive on the EV mode, but for longer weekend trips having the back-up of the petrol engine.
What did you think of the drive, Ali?
She: I loved driving in EV mode, but unfortunately, it’s short-lived. On a full charge, the EV only range is around 40km, which doesn’t get you far, and I didn’t find it to regenerate enough to get you much further either. The Outlander is heavy, so it doesn’t take off like a rocket ship, or even close. But that’s okay, because what it lacks in speed, it makes up for everywhere else. Even in petrol mode, it’s a quiet machine.
He: While the powertrain is interesting the chassis lets the Outlander down. It’s not supposed to be a dynamic driving experience, this is a family-friendly SUV with a focus on comfort. So the ride is soft, which means it soaks up bumps well but rolls noticeably in corners lacks the responsiveness more polished rivals offer - cars such as the Volkswagen Tiguan or Mazda CX-5.
She: As I said earlier, I was impressed by how smooth the Outlander PHEV was, Steve. I thought the steering was light and responsive. And it handled well around corners too, without as much body roll I was expecting it to have. I agree its soft suspension soaks up bumps and speed humps - except when going it a little faster over a bump where the tail-heavy rear suspension dips really low. Driving in everyday road conditions was comfortable and really enjoyable for me.
He: At $54k the Outlander PHEV Exceed is a viable option for families looking for a more environmentally friendly alternative to regular machines. Unlike a conventional hybrid, such as you find in the Toyota Camry, which requires no plugging in, there is some behavioural change required if you buy one. Basically, you’ve got to remember to plug it in every night. But if that’s something you’re willing to do, it offers you the chance to cut your fuel bills and enjoy the benefits of electric motoring.
Did the Outlander PHEV leave you charged or shocked, Ali?
She: Steve, I’d happily have an Outlander PHEV in my driveway. It’s comfortable, spacious and fuel efficient, and while it isn’t the zippiest SUV on the block, Mitsubishi is headed in the right direction with this one.
2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Exceed price and specifications
Price: From $53,990plus on-road costs
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol/ twin electric motors
Power: 87kW at 4500rpm (petrol); 120kW (petrol and electric)
Torque: 186Nm at 4500rpm (petrol); 332Nm (petrol and electric)
Transmission: Direct-drive automatic, all-wheel-drive
Fuel use: 1.7L/100km combined